Best Practices for Students

Pro Tips for Boards and Beyond

Neil Bhavsar


May 20, 2019

Editor's Note: This video and transcript have been edited for clarity.

Neil Bhavsar: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Best Practices, a Medscape Medical Student series. My name's Neil. I'm sitting down with Dr Ryan, the creator of Boards and Beyond. Hi there, Dr Ryan. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Jason Ryan: Thank you, Neil.

Bhavsar: We'll get right into it. Can you tell our community a little bit about the learning philosophies behind Boards and Beyond?

Ryan: I've always been of the belief that most things in medicine are not that hard if they're explained properly. I've always felt like once you really understand how a system works, how a disease works, how a drug works, it becomes so much easier to answer questions about it. Really, when you get into board exam–type questions, very rarely do they ask you to just spit out some fact that you may have memorized. Far more often they ask you to apply the knowledge. That's really the way that the boards try to design their questions. It's about all of that knowledge application.

Memorization will get you something, because you certainly have to know things. If you really know how that disease works, if you understand step by step how it occurs, then I think it's so much easier to answer questions. My philosophy for Boards and Beyond has always been to try to break things down into easy-to-understand language and make the disease and the physiologic processes clear to students. Once you've got them in your head, it gives you so many tools when you're faced with difficult questions or even clinical scenarios when you get out into the third-year rotations.

Bhavsar: As for our next question, what should students not be doing when using Boards and Beyond? What are some of the worst practices, some things that students should definitely not do, when it comes to studying your lecture series?

Ryan: In general, trying to memorize every slide in my lecture series is probably not the best approach because, like I said, you're going to be asked in the board exams to apply this knowledge. You could have an exact picture in your head of my slide on cirrhosis, but the question asks you to apply it to a different scenario. The answer is not right there in the middle of my slide.

That type of detailed memorization maybe has some role very close to the exams; you want to memorize certain factoids and things like that. But for the most part, try to get a scheme in your head of how everything works that you can pull up when you need to, to answer questions.

Bhavsar: Do you have any final piece of advice for the medical students currently watching this video?

Ryan: This is the advice I give to all medical students about Step 1, and that is: Lower the stakes. If you feel like this exam is going to determine whether you're a good doctor or a bad doctor, a good student or a bad student; if you feel like your life is going to hang on the balance of this score, that pressure is just too much to put on anyone's shoulders. You need to lower the stakes. This is just one test. Many people who have not gotten the score they wanted have gone on to fantastic careers.

I always tell people that I don't know any 40-year-old physician who still sweats their Step 1 score. Everybody has moved on and found a happy place in life. The more you can take the stakes down a couple of notches, the easier your whole life will be in medical school, and the more you'll retain. Because if every time you get a UWorld question wrong you panic, thinking that this means I'm not going to be a good doctor, then you're not going to be a very good studier.

Lower the stakes. Trust me—this is a wonderful field, and anyone who's a medical student has already outcompeted an incredible group of students who don't get into medical school each year. You're in a very powerful position, and whatever happens in Step 1, you're going to be okay.

Bhavsar: That was very encouraging advice. Thank you so much, Dr Ryan. I'm sure all of us feel a lot better after hearing that.


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